Architecture and Engineering Integration

The practice of architecture has changed dramatically over the last several years. We can no longer be content with functional and aesthetically pleasing buildings; our clients and our society demand more of us. Building design now needs to encompass a more holistic approach to handling programmatic needs, aesthetic design, and incorporation of technological advancements, sustainability, resiliency, as well as energy and water efficiency.

As we adapt the built environment and our infrastructure to address a wide variety of issues—including climate mitigation, carbon reduction, and air and water quality issues—we as architects have a mandate to lead. We have to re-think our processes and develop a built environment that is sustainable, resilient, adaptable, and recovers from climate extremes while meeting programmatic, budgetary, and aesthetic requirements.

The Ever-Moving Target of High Performance Buildings

Clients and society are demanding High Performance Buildings with increasing frequency. At the same time, how we define "high performance" is changing. This emphasis has driven the architectural and engineering disciplines much closer together. In fact, integrating engineering services from the outset of architectural design is becoming a more critical success factor with every passing project. New innovative tools that perform energy analysis "on the fly," along with ROI/SROI, allow us to optimize the energy use and financial performance of our clients' building. As budgets become tighter and a greater emphasis is put on our built environment's long-term performance, we need to be collaborative and engaged at all levels of architectural design with the engineering disciplines.

In addition to developing viable, long term sustainable HVAC systems, our building envelope and site responses are tremendously important in High Performance Buildings. We have to balance energy and water efficiency with indoor air quality to create spaces and environments that are efficient, effective, pleasant, and healthy. It is vital that engineers analyze the building envelope performance at the outset of a project. With environmental mandates such as the 2030 Challenge, Federal Executive Orders on water, energy, environmental, and societal cost/benefit analyses – we are not truly serving our clients and providing High Performance Buildings unless we can bring all of these facets together cohesively.

Expanding the Impacts of Green Rating Programs

The USGBC's LEED system has raised plenty of awareness around the impact we as designers have on the built environment. Thousands of buildings now have "LEED Plaques" denoting their levels of achievement in sustainable design. I ask the question though – is this enough? A lot of conversations and actions continue to build on whether these buildings are performing as needed, how do we evolve to ensure that they are; and are the facilities resilient?

There is considerable evidence that many of these buildings miss the mark and would not be considered "High Performance". We need to carry this sustainability mission further and develop long-term, viable building design strategies that not only optimize the performance of the building, but MUST make it financially viable through the development of High Performing Buildings. That is the true definition of being economically viable, sustainable, and resilient. Integration of the engineering disciplines from the outset will produce, by definition, a better building and better architecture.

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